REVIEW: ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

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I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I bought my ticket to see Bad Times at the El Royale. I saw the first trailer when it came out and became really interested. The title of the movie alone captured my attention. I had put the idea into my head that this was going to be some sort of crime thriller with elements inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s films.  The movie is directed by Drew Goddard, who previously directed Cabin in the Woods. I’m not a fan Cabin in the Woods so I didn’t walk into the film with high expectations. But walking out of the theater, I was completely blown away with what I just saw. It’s quite possibly one of my favorite films of the year.

One major positive thing about the marketing for Bad Times at the El Royale is that it didn’t give any of the plot away. All the trailer wanted us to know was that it revolved around seven strangers who all had secrets. Nowadays, fans criticize trailers for revealing too much about the plot. I would have loved to have known a bit more about the movie but I think what they showed in the trailer was perfect.

The main premise of the film takes place during 1969 and follows four strangers who find themselves at the El Royale hotel. The hotel is known for being right on the border between California and Nevada. As the movie progresses, they find themselves in strange situations as they try to hide their secrets and confront the mysteries of the hotel. The film stars Jeff Bridges as Father Flynn, Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring, Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet, Jon Hamm as Seymour “Laramie” Sullivan, Cailee Spaeney as Rose Summerspring, Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller, and Chris Hemsworth as Billy Lee.

Recognition for stand out performances has to go to Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, and Cynthia Erivo. I’ve only watched a few films that star Jeff Bridges despite his long film career but his presence in this film is felt. He reminds me of a character that would have fit perfectly in Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction. I can’t get into why Chris deserves recognition without getting into spoilers, but his character is truly terrifying. It seems like he took inspiration for this character from the likes of Charles Manson. Cynthia Erivo has a phenomenal voice. Her character in the film is a lounge singer and the film definitely uses her voice as a part of the plot. One specific character has a total 180-degree turn and develops into such a phenomenal character.

Like I said before, the film borrows a lot of the techniques that Tarantino uses in his films. Some of these techniques include flashback, POV shifts, The Trunk & Hood POV Shot, The Corpse POV Shot, Record Player Close-Ups, Mirror Shots, and many more. The transitions from POV shifts add a sense of humor to the movie, which got the audience of the showing I attended to laugh. Similar to the story in Cabin in the Woods, the story here is full of twists and character revelations that impact the film in monumental ways. The film is over two hours but it delivers the perfect amount of shock factor and amazing storytelling. Many films like Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy have made their soundtracks in the film and become a part of their story. This film does that as well, but the music included also gives the audience a sense of the time period in which the film takes place. Its use of music plays an important part toward the middle and end of the film.

Overall, I highly recommend that you go watch Bad Times at the El Royale. It’s a film that delivers from start to finish and will have you wanting more once it ends. Make sure to catch the film at your local movie theater as soon as you can!

Final Rating: 4.25/5